John, Josh & Caroline
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John, Josh & Caroline

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"3 Singers, 2 Guitars, 1 Folk Trio"

by Greg Cook, Staff Writer

Josh Brackett describes the folk music trio John, Josh & Caroline with his typical dry wit: "Three singers who play two guitars but not always."

The Rockport resident is one of those singers who sometimes plays acoustic guitar in the group.

They play a range of music, mixing originals and traditional songs ranging from folk to blues to British music hall.

Some are just plain entertaining. Some are funny. Some are beautiful and sad. Some are kids' songs.

They throw in a dash of gospel, some politics, 1920s and '30s pop tunes, and sing-alongs. They have been described as a cross between the Weavers, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Manhattan Transfer.

"One thing we're trying to do is a lot of different things," Brackett explains.

John, Josh & Caroline perform at the Ocean's Harbor Coffeehouse at the Independent Christian Church, Unitarian-Universalist, in Gloucester on Saturday, March 8.

Brackett says, "We're relatively cool performers. We're not up there screaming and shouting..."

"...too much," adds John Hicks of Lanesville.

"That's the folk tradition," Brackett explains. "There's a tradition of understatement, where instead of me screaming and shouting and being sad, the idea is to sort of tell it like it is and have the audience say, 'Wow, that's sad.'"

They perform Brackett originals like "I Used to Be Different But Now I'm the Same," "Run to Iran (Attack Iraq)," "Take the Muffins When They're Passed," and "Home Again on Cape Ann." They perform traditional and popular songs like "Rust Farm Fire," "Freight Train," "Railroad Bill," "The Water Is Wide," "Dream a Little Dream of Me," "I Wonder as I Wander," "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight," "The Red River Valley," and "Hush."

"A lovely song about death," Hicks says of the last one.

"We have a lot of songs about death, when I start thinking about it," says Caroline Haines of Lanesville.

"Well, there's nothing funnier," Brackett cracks.

They are drawn to the honesty and intelligence of these sorts of songs.

The trio formed around August 2001. Hicks plays lead guitar, dobro, and ukelele, as well as arranges their songs. Brackett plays second guitar and writes some songs. Caroline Haines sings.

Hicks kicked around the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the 1960s and the Boston folk scene of the 1970s. In addition to the folk trio, these days he also plays in a rock band.

Haines is a featured soloist and one of the founders of 'leven, a Cape Ann women's a capella group.

Brackett played in a folk trio while in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia in the 1960s. He was also part of the 1960s folk scene in Cambridge, where he met Joan Baez.

Brackett recalls "I once said to Joan Baez--she's a teenager--I said, 'Joanie, you're pretty good at this. You could even do it for a living.' She said, 'Yeah, Josh, I have this guy who gets me jobs at fraternity houses and I get paid.' And I said, 'Good, Joanie, keep it up.'"

The rest, of course, is history.

Brackett says his fellow trio members are pretty good, but he has limitations.

"I can only do what I do," Brackett says, "I would love to write a really sad, romantic, poignant love song and have it be a great hit, but so far what I write seems to come out funny. I don't know. That's just me. I'm like the comic who wants to play Hamlet."

Then he adds, "But I don't really want to play Hamlet."
- Gloucester Daily Times, March 6, 2003


Discography

John, Josh & Caroline's first CD, "Love, Politics and Muffins" will be available soon.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

1. John, Josh & Caroline’s original songs and covers are influenced by which of these genres? a. The American folk tradition; b. British music hall; c. African-American spirituals; d. calypso; e. blues; f. classic pop; g. country; h. Dixieland; i. sea chanteys; j. all of the above.

2. Which of these adjectives best describes John, Josh & Caroline’s music? a. funny; b. sad; c. harmonious; d. edgy; e. lovely; f. satirical; g. smart; f. all of the above.

3. John, Josh & Caroline’s original songs are about which of these subjects? a. love; b. death; c. petroleum; d. Cape Ann; e. money; f. growing older; g. muffins; h. 9/11; i. all of the above.

4. John, Josh & Caroline sing songs by a. A.P. Carter; b. Anonymous; c. Bill Staines; d. Eric Von Schmidt; e. Flanders and Swann; f. Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter; g. Iris Dement; h. Red River Dave McEnery; i. Richard Thompson; j. Charlie Patton; k. Thomas D'Urfey, a 1719 anti-smoking propagandist; k. all of the above.

5. John, Josh & Caroline’s music is influenced by a. Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters; b. Holy Modal Rounders; c. Jimmy Durante; d. Joan Baez; e. Manhattan Transfer; f. Peter, Paul & Mary; g. Golden Gate Quartet; h. Weavers; i. Red Army Chorus; j. all of the above.

6. Although John, Josh & Caroline often sing a cappella, Josh plays the nylon-string guitar and the kazoo, and Caroline plays the egg and the kazoo. John plays which of these instruments? a. steel-string guitar; b. dobro; c. ukulele; d. banjo; e. mandolin; f. spoons; g. all of the above.

The answer to all of the above is all of the above.